January 22, 2009

The Curious Case of the Love of Benjamin Button


I love the Oscars. It's bigger than the Super Bowl to me. Seriously. Maybe it's the glitz, or just the arguments that can happen over who deserved to win and so on. Plus, you know, I just like movies more than football. But, I don't understand all the love for that Brad Pitt movie (and I sure as hell don't get how Bruce Springsteen wasn't nominated for Best Song for The Wrestler). I haven't seen all the potential Oscar movies, like Revolutionary Road (which I'm itching to see, but it hasn't toured through Madison yet), but I just don't see how it could possibly be on the best 5 movies of the year.

I saw it, Christmas day. A total bring-you-down movie about aging and dying, so you know, Christmas-fare. And the make-up, effects and look of the movie were great, in parts. Like the ocean battle scene is gorgeously put together, but so what? That's what the cinematography award is for, right? Though, how in the hell this is considered such a great movie escapes me.

Brad Pitt plays the whole movie, pretty much, with the same expression on his face. That dead-faced handsome look he has perfected in Legends of the Fall, and pretty much decided to stick with that for his whole career. The charisma of him in 12 Monkeys, a performance that was, you know, a performance, not walking room to room, saying a line, being handsome, then walking the other way, was truly something. This one? He doesn't inhabit a character, just takes on a mildly effective accent, shuffles around under makeup or being handsome. Any actor could have done this role as equally as effective as Brad Pitt. Oh, don't give me that about how there was a sadness in his eyes, which there might have been, but if it's just a mope-eyed stare, then you are placing the emotion into what you are seeing, not taking the emotion from what you are seeing. For God's sake, for much of this movie, when he's looking blank faced, it's hard to tell if he's thinking about the sadness of his situation or potato pancakes or banjo music or what it would look like if a shark fucked a dolphin. Just not a lot going on on that beautiful face.

If you haven't seen the flick, you know the whole premise. It's about this baby born as an old man, then ages backwards who falls in love with a woman who is aging correctly. That's about it. Sure there's perturbations of plot in between, but that's the gist of it. And there's that guy who gets struck by lightning (which to me was the best parts, see video at end of post).

But what really bugged me, to the core, about this movie was a crucial plot point. See, there comes a time when a youthful Cate Blanchett (she's Mr. Pitt's love interest) comes back to visit her home town and runs into oldish Brad Bitt. Now, she's in her 20s for this section, and he's in his 60s I'd wager. They have this sweet moment, and it's clear the whole time that she wants him, he wants her. It's a mutual want. And there's nothing on God's green earth stopping them from being together. Cate makes a play, Brad says no, he can't, looks beautiful, mope-eyed (boxcars? unbearable sadness? saxophone reeds?) and walks away. Why you ask? Shit, I don't know.

I have my theories as to why, like maybe, maybe, it's because Pitt's character feels like it wouldn't be fair for Blanchett's character to be with a 60 year old man (though from scenes earlier in the movie, he is certainly still capable of the vigors of youthful lovemaking, despite his aged frame). And that's the theory I'm inferring after sitting through another 2 hours of that movie because at that time, it's not clear at all why it happened, except that maybe if they get together then, well, then that wouldn't make much a movie, so they gotta stretch that shit out. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

And, by the way, if he feels so damn bad about being with her, why does he ever get involved with her in the first damn place, am I right? I mean, there's that moment described above where he refuses her, for what I assume to be saving her from his condition, then he goes on to pursue her and winds up with her and they have a happy life (oh, like you didn't see that coming). Why? If he was doing that romantic stonewall to protect her, why did he suddenly not give a damn about protecting her later from his ailment which still very much exists...which again forces him to make another stupid move later?

Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) comes off as remarkably selfish, and Cate Blanchett's character (I can't remember her name) a little foolish for falling in love with him so hard because she can't see how selfish he's really being.

Anyway, if you really dug that movie, set me straight in the comments, because I'm just lost about this. On the plus side, maybe this will send the hollywood machine into checking out other older short stories for potential movies instead of remaking films over. I'd like to see someone take a swing at Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings."

viva el mustache

here's that video i promised above:


Diana said...

I haven't seen The CCoBB, but I'm not a huge fan of Brad Pitt. I have seen Milk (which I loved) and tonight, Terry Davis and I are going to see The Wrestler (which I think I'm going to love.) And that's it for Oscar movies I've seen. I'm real interested in Revolutionary Road.

Luke said...

I agree with you, sir. Not a fan. I feel that the movie itself was kind of forced and probably an hour too long. I liked the premise of him aging backwards, I suppose, but I thought it was stupid for her to let him walk out after the baby was born. Bullshit. Brad Pitt was getting better looking by the second. Cate Blanchett should have been like "Damn, Brad, I can't wait till we turn 75. It will be like having grandma having sex with a college dude."

And one more thing. Why didn't he turn back into a fetus before he died of old age?

Big Perm said...

This is why I haven't seen CCoBB--I had ideas, based on the previews, that the movie would have such flaws. Plus, I agree with you, Bryan, that Brad Pitt isn't much of an actor. Seen him once, you've seen him in every role. So I'm glad I didn't see the movie. Although I do think Cate Blanchett is beautiful.

I concur with Diana: Milk is brilliant. And also I highly recommend Slumdog Millionaire--it's lovely and brilliant and dark.

I want want want to see Revolutionary Road.